Starting Over, One Word At a Time

I’m revising the YA I’ve been working on off-and-on for years. There are a whole bunch of reasons for the delays and procrastination but the main takeaway is that because of the down-time, I was intimidated about jumping back into it. Then I read about one writer’s approach to getting back into a story: she retypes the entire manuscript.

I decided to give it a try.

I’m taking it chapter by chapter, retyping from the last hard copy I printed out. So far, I agree with the writer who suggested it that retyping helps me revise on a deeper level than if I were only working with what was already there. In other words, my revisions would be more superficial if I was working with a hard copy and pen. Retyping seems to highlight issues such as where the text bogs down and any character inconsistencies. Most importantly, something about putting those words down, again, is helping reconnect me to the story. And in the process, it’s helping shine a light on what needs to change.

Every book I’ve written has taken a different path. There are days when I’m not sure whether that’s a blessing or a curse. This method, at least, is allowing me to move ahead.

The Opposite of Writer’s Block

Too many ideas graphic

You know that expression “So many books, so little time”?
Right now my main issue is “So many ideas, so little time.”

The bulb in my head keeps flashing with new ideas for
non-fiction, fiction, picture book ideas, young adult novels,
magazine articles . . .

I’m also participating in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month
in which I hope to generate at least 30 picture book ideas,
and am having great fun letting my imagination run wild.
I’ve come up with some truly horrendous ideas but have also
jotted down several promising concepts. Someday soon I hope
to pick one of those ideas and see where it takes me.

In the meanwhile, I’m still working on my middle-grade revisions.


Yeah, still. (You got a problem with that?)

So this is me putting that light bulb on notice. Flash all you want,
but I can only commit to jotting down ideas before getting back
to my manuscript.
 That middle-grade novel is my priority right now.

Bartleby, the Scrivener

I’m using Scrivener for the YA I’m revising and even with all its bells and whistles, sometimes I feel a bit like Bartleby. Obviously, that’s a stretch since that poor dude had to laboriously hand copy legal documents while I’m using writing software and a printer. Still, it feels like forever that I’ve been hunched over this novel, painstakingly revising each chapter.

The good news: I’m (mostly) enjoying the process and have not yet proclaimed “I would prefer not to.” Also? I haven’t alienated everyone around me and am not sleeping in a doorway.

Around these parts, we call that a WIN.

Revision = To See Again

John Irving wrote in the opening to Trying to Save Piggy Sneed,
“Half my life is an act of revision.”

Ain’t that the truth.

I share Mr. Irving’s love of revision. I enjoy blue ink on paper, deleting the fat and plumping up the skinny parts. I love drilling down to find the essence of what I want to convey.

Right now I’m revising the first several chapters of my YA. Again. I recently received stellar editorial input on my opening pages that has allowed a minor miracle: I am reading the pages with new eyes. I’ve already worked and worked and worked some more on those chapters, yet this editor’s input changed my perception of what was there on the page. It’s as if her reaction to what she read is forcing me to “defend” each and every word, every motivation. I’m no longer reading the pages with the mindset of someone who knows the entire story and all the backstory, but as a brand new reader! I didn’t think it was possible to read stuff I’d already read gazillions of times with fresh eyes, but it is. It really is.

Wow. Amazing stuff. Yet I’m alternating between thinking, “This is so cool that I have this new heightened awareness!” and “What is wrong with me that it’s taken so long to achieve this awareness that any writer worth her laser printer should already have?!”

So, in an effort to be kinder to myself, I’m focusing on this quote from Ernest Hemingway:
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Take that, nasty voice! I will prevail.
Prevail bracelet 010

Friday Five: The Time-for-a-New-Plan Edition


1)  Last weekend I read I the first draft of my latest middle-grade novel after letting it sit awhile.

2) All week I've jotted notes and zeroed in on characters' motivations and reconfigured the plot.

3) I followed editor Kendra Levin's Five-Step Revision Plan, and created a
"one paragraph summary" that inexplicably mushroomed into multiple paragraphs.

4) I swing between moods of exhilaration and freak-outs about my chances of pulling this one off.

5)  And then today I realized that, despite the first draft being written in first-person,
the story needs to be told in third-person.

Here, Tracy, gaze upon the starling to calm your nerves:

                                                                                                 © Tracy Abell 2009

I wish everyone a wonderful weekend filled with epiphanies and maybe a few feathered friends! 




On Sunday I worked for hours cleaning up my flower beds, but took time out to aim my camera at the lovely fall foliage
and the backdrop of blue, blue sky.


These leaves are neither fully here nor there in coloration, but are in transition.

Just like me and my project.

BIRD BRAIN is so much closer to being ready to face the world than it was a few weeks ago, 
but there is still work to be done. 

Right now BIRD BRAIN is a healthy and happy green, but I hope to crank up the intensity
and also bring out those glorious yellows and brilliant reds.

Hokey, but true.

We’re All Bird Brains



Working hard on BIRD BRAIN
and feeling good about making progress.

The cool thing about this project
is that most anytime I look out the window,
I see my inspiration.

These Grackles visited me almost a year ago
but they still make me smile.

                                                                                                                                              © Tracy Abell 2010

I might have to take a break and belly up to the feeder for a snack (or two).

Blogs or Revisions?


I’ve been scarce around here and am popping in to say
I’m thinking of everyone
but am putting my time/energy/focus into some revisions.

I don’t like neglecting my online community
but feel it’s best for my emotional/writerly health to keep forging ahead.
I’m making progress and that is good for my soul.

Know that I’m thinking of you and wishing happy stuff all the way around!

Here’s a Coco pic to make you smile:

Bonus points to anyone who can tell me what she’s thinking.